Rory Best believes that Ulster have been handed a 'exceptionally difficult' Champions Cup draw after being paired with French giants Toulouse in the round of 16.
Ulster’s weekend victory over Clermont saw them secure second place in their Pool and an all-important seeded position, but despite that they will still face the defending champions in the knock-out stage.
Former Ulster captain Best is aware of the magnitude of the task facing the Northerners and feels that they could not have been handed a tougher task.
"I think it’s going to be exceptionally difficult for them," he said, speaking on 2fm’s Game On. "I think winning four from four and coming second in that group, you probably wanted someone other than Toulouse.
"It’s a really even competition but Leinster and Toulouse look like the two teams on paper that would be fairly strong favourites.
"The other disadvantage that Ulster have is with the tie being over two legs. If it had been one game at the Kingspan Stadium, the way that Ulster are play you’d fancy them against anyone at home but to do that over two legs is incredibly difficult for them."
Best warned that Ulster will have to produce a complete performance over two legs to stand any chance of topping Toulouse.
Dan McFarland’s side appear to have picked up the habit of fading in games they should have put to bed and against Clermont at the weekend they scored five tries, led by 34-17 but let the French side back in the game before eventually winning by 34-31.
"It was a bit disappointing," Best said on the display against Clermont. "It’s been a little bit like that with Ulster this season, they race into a lead and probably the last quarter of game, they’ll be disappointed with how they see things out.
"I think with problem is with this really young backline, they’re learning and they’re also trying to figure out how to close games out.
"They’re going to have to be better and they’re certainly going to have to be better against Toulouse where every point counts.
"From an Ulster point of view when you look at the first 60 minutes and even the first 65 minutes, they were really good Clermont, even at halftime, were holding on by a thread to be in that game.
"It was encouraging to see how Ulster blew them away at the start of the second half but a little bit frustrating to see how they’d sat back."